DumbSun, 2014 was a solo exhibition curated at the SME Gallery at the University California San Diego, CA. It is a delirious kosmology exploring the relationship between Disney’s Dumbo (1940) and jazz musician Herman Poole Blount aka Sun Ra. The inception of this inquiry is on track nine, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films(1988) where Sun Ra and his Arkestra play Pink Elephants on Parade – the delirious scene from Dumbo. Pink Elephants on Paradeis a sequence described by scholars as "out of time" and can be seen as a "logic of physical appearance to a logic of social relations.
The show collided two eras (40’s and 80’s) along with two pop cultural icons to explore specters of Indigenism and memory through an archeology of populist futurist imaginaries, their tension and political positioning in contemporary art. The show includes sculptures, meticulously made reproductions of lost artifacts, forged letters on paper of the era, various documents intermixed with musical, film and textual residues enacting a performative site for a cultural phantasmagoria of an alternate history of the 20th century. The exhibition resulted in a mesmerizing and compulsive organization of a counter-intelligence system of erudite referents to a speculative and fictional symbolic organization of the body, labor, alterity and circuits of knowledge production in popular culture and counter-culture. This exhibition became a rich surreal dance with sonic, visual and archival histories.
The show was accompanied by a live theatrical score to various Sun Ra Films from Los Angeles based musician Ras G and a series of film screenings related to my research including, Dumbo Walt Disney Production, (1941)| 64 min. Walt & El Grupo, Theodore Thomas(2008) | 106 min. The Cry of Jazz(1959) by Edward Bland | 34 min. and Space is the Place (1974) by John Coney 85 min.
""Hal Willner commissioned Sun Ra and his Arkestra to play Pink Elephants on Parade from Walt Disney Production's Dumbo (1941) for the album Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films (1989). Having never seen Dumbo, Sun Ra immediately watched the film and felt an affinity with the main character due to his own embodied life experiences and beginnings as Herman Poole Blount and also being an outcast in the jazz community. Dumbo the Flying Elephant began as a story written by Helen Alberson and Harold Pearl for Roll-a-Book Publisher, Inc. The product of this partnership remains elusive to this day. No known copies exist. Right before the couple's divorce, Walt Disney bought the story's copyright and set out to make Dumbo, Disney's "make or break movie." Two characters were noticeably altered from the original Pink Elephants on Parade sequence - the owl from which Dumbo derives his aerial ability, from a shaman named "The Wise One" to a psychiatrist, "Dr. I Hoot", and his best friend, Red Robin, who later became Timothy Mouse. While Dumbo was in production Walt Disney was commissioned by President Franklin Roosevelt under the "Good Neighbor Policy" to promote healthy relations with various South American countries. Walt and a team of artist traveled to Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. However, he left his newly purchased Burbank studios in the midst of an animator’s strike making Dumbo the shortest animated feature in Disney's catalogue due to the budgets cuts made during its production. While Walt Disney was in South American, SunRa was in a prison camp for being a conscientious objector during WWII. SunRa's letters revealed his suicide attempts and self-mutilation due to not being able to make music. Herman Poole Blount was able to create his persona SunRa as most of his belonging including birth certificate and identification documents were burned in a studio fire in Chicago. Find here a cosmos of specters." - Excerpt from exhibition text."
This exhibition became groundbreaking for me as an artist and researcher, establishing a complex methodology while bringing various themes running throughout my work concerning memory, the body, and various social and political aspects.
The exhibition was sponsored with generous funds by a UCIRA Fellowship
Date: Feb 27th, 2014
Medium: Installation | Performative | Silk Screen | Sculpture | Video | Music | Archive | Mixed Media
Vinyl record, metal, body harness, rope, speaker, iPod, owl, crow and red robin feathers framed, digital pographs turned into slides, 28 5" x 7" framed silk screen prints,ink on paper from 1950's 4-8"x 10" , replica of electric chair, wood, leather, tv, electric cord, metal head plate, and buckles, dimension variable.